Defining the alter orbis : the Roman view of Parthia in the early Principate

Hill, Steven (2013) Defining the alter orbis : the Roman view of Parthia in the early Principate. Masters thesis, University of Wales, Trinity St David.

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Abstract

During the reign of Augustus the idea of Parthian Empire as an alter orbis was developed. For the Romans of the early Principate, the kingdom of the Arsacids represented the antithesis of their own values, embodying the vices of despotism and licentiousness. In the absence of a decisive military victory, the Roman people used this image of the Parthians to assert their own sense of superiority, while also acknowledging the formidable military strength of their eastern neighbour. This depiction of the Parthians (and later the Persians) was to persist throughout the centuries, despite increased contact through diplomacy and trade. As a result, the rivalry between the two powers never diminished, despite long periods of relative peace. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the various ways in which this view of Parthia was developed during the early Principate, both in the literature of the period and also in the iconography, such as coinage and public monuments. I shall discuss the influence of earlier attitudes towards the ‘oriental’ East, particularly those of the Greeks, and the impact these had on the Roman mentality. In doing so, I shall examine why this view of the Parthians, once established, became so dominant. Finally I shall demonstrate how the Roman people used this image of an alter orbis to come to terms with the presence of a powerful neighbour, while at the same time maintaining a sense of hostility towards Parthia.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Additional Information: Series: Carmarthen / Lampeter Dissertations;10412/264.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Parthia
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: John Dalling
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2014 17:50
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2016 14:22
URI: http://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/397

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